top of page

John Repp

Boots Ode

Whenever I lace these boots too tightly, the top of my right foot

goes numb, which prompts fear of diabetes, one of the scourges

lurking in my DNA. After Barrie switched to the lip of the pool,

wearing those cutoffs that revealed the bottommost two inches

of each front pocket, I gazed into those eyes black as mussel shells

for the last time & knew it, her soon to skinny-dip in the surf

off Key Largo & not in the secret spot we all knew in the Gale.

Once I reveal those were the years I owned one pair of boots

& the Converse low-tops I wore till the soles peeled away on Brattle Street

the hottest day of that year & me on my way with Tom or Leslie

or even Harvey (still wearing his Solzhenitsyn beard) to buy the first

of eight (so far) pairs of the sandals the Philistines ridicule

as their spines calcify for lack of chi, I’ll return to the present, an era

of post-industrial agony during which people like me—the few

I trust, anyway—research exile in Costa Rica now that the American Id

seems to have snapped its chains for good. I’m sick of living

in an empire even as I bless the two pair of insulated, waterproof boots

its amoral manufacturing practices make possible. Ah, but since

the past is always prelude, living well really is the best revenge & the ghosts

of Gauls indeed do cackle in the olive groves where Visigoths

feast on the roasted livers of the palace guard, I’ll revel in the week

my beat boots slouched in a corner of the attic where a winter

idyll unfurled inside Children of the Future & all the blues ever sung

south of Memphis. We ate, bathed & maintained ourselves otherwise,

but I don’t recall any of that & hope she doesn’t, either. Remember Son House?

Tampa Red? The invincible happiness of Boz Scaggs’ lead lines? Oh, yes:

A seven-day seizure of wordlessness, little deaths & rain drumming the roof.



When four Americans—white Americans, past-sixty childhood friends

become two couples, married couples with grown children, neighbors

across a frontier thick with topiary shrubs, repurposed bricks & wrought-iron

park benches—feud over feral cats, it makes you wonder why the pair

who’ve installed a feline-proportioned saloon door in their barn-wood

gazebo haven’t neutered the cats, or, if that’s too Homo sapiens-centric,

hired a metal-working artist from the hollowed-out cotton mill by the river

to fashion a maze serpentine, half-buried, punctuated with catnip-choked

dead-ends so the cats that do slip in & out for food & furtive licks

of a human toe or fingertip do so without shattering the eggshell

skulls of the pair who just want after what they’ve been through a week

or even a day without migraine, an evening with glasses of wine glowing

under the lamps illuminating the books they read & the profile each

can’t imagine glancing up & failing to see on the patio built during so many

Sundays chiseled from the granite of work & worry. Why pay any more

than you already have for what & how you want? It isn’t your fault so many

haven’t got where you’ve got & now you’ve got there, you’re back

in the school mud room, digging your fingers into the taut, pink neck

of the creature who’s stolen your pencil & won’t give it back.


Black the Jacket of Ivanhoe

Black the jacket of Ivanhoe,

black Rebecca the Jewess’ hair,

gray the dust on “Jewess,” chronic

the boy’s hunger as he reads

in the winter attic she heats,

heart & hearth of the tale, her skin

gleaming in the firelight knife-edge-clear

through the homemade telescope

mounted on an oaken tripod,

retort fuming on the dusky bench,

dun autumn air swelling with rain.

Knights & vassals, thieves crouched

in the trackless wood, orange moon

over the moat, trenchers heaped

with meat in the mead hall—

far he can see, nothing hidden,

the wait now ended for the cold

downpour that moves him to shroud

the lens with the square of sheet

dyed black for the purpose.


John Repp grew up near the Palace Depression in Vineland, New Jersey. His latest book is Fat Jersey Blues, published in 2014 by the University of Akron Press.

Recent Posts

See All

Miles Cayman

Ø I think your name is less like itself is more like your middle name and most like the way you've held your pencil ever since you practiced cursive, and the ridge of callus precisely on your finger t

Javeria Hasnain

I ONLY CAME TO SEE GOD on the altar. When all the guests had left, & the smell of tuna had wafted far off into the ocean from where it came. No one truly knows. I waited for you, even though I knew yo

Clay Matthews

The First Law of Robotics What kind of malfunction brought you, little daffodil, with the afterbirth of an early February frost; what maker of clocks, what loosed screw; what turned and left the heart

bottom of page